Sunday, July 01, 2007
J is for Jicama and Orange salad
The next day in the school queue I got chatting to a mum who comes from Mexico. I told her that I had found some jicama. Her eyes lit up. Everyone can name food that reminds them of home, of their childhood. For her, it was jicama. She said they could be cooked in casseroles but that it was a waste of jicama. Better to buy them small and juicy and cut them up in salads. “We used to have them cut into batons with lime juice and a pinch of chilli powder and they are great with oranges or fresh pineapple.”
I’m a great fan of the school queue. Here you can commiserate over lost sleep, compare notes on nits and have obscure conversations about Mexican vegetables. Who needs the internet?
At home I returned to my jicama. The best ones are small and smooth. You can peel the skin away by hand. On their own, they taste slightly sweet but like a chameleon, they change when you add other flavours to them. This isn’t a vegetable that fights to keep its own identity. It’s passive and seems to exist simply to take on the taste of its companion - more a handmaiden than a vegetable.
I created two dishes based on my friend’s childhood memories and kept it very simple. One unfamiliar ingredient is enough for Freddie at any one time. The Orange and Jicama salad was sweet and juicy. Alexandra loved it. Freddie scored it 6 out of ten but he gave 7 out of ten to the jicama batons squeezed with lime and smoked paprika. The smokiness of the paprika works well with the sweet lime juice. The adults liked the same, with chilli powder.
SIMPLE ORANGE AND JICAMA SALAD
4 small jicama
2 fresh oranges
Peel the jicama, cut in half and into thin slices. Peel the oranges, deseed them and cut into slices. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the salad and serve .
JICAMA WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA
Peel and cut one medium jicama into batons. Squeeze the juice of half a lime. On top, sprinkle several pinches of smoked paprika, according to taste and serve.