Papaya & Caviar Starter

by Dr. Hennie Fisher

Although this combination of papaya and caviar is a breeze to assemble, it delivers on both looks and bold flavour. It could be made as a large platter for a crowd, or, plated in large, low bowls to effortlessly create smart individual starters for a meal. One could probably serve it with some crusty bread, but it is probably better to keep it simple and enjoy how well the few additional ingredients combine with the papaya.
In addition to being quite pricey, caviar is one of those divisive food items that people either adore or detest. Real caviar would give the dish a deep umami richness, so feel free to use it if you’re feeling flush, or opt for trout eggs where their beautiful deep salmon colour would echo that of the papaya. However, this recipe uses seaweed or kelp caviar, an environmentally friendly plant-based alternative that is quite affordable at about R 60 for 250 g. While not entirely as rich as caviar from fish, the seaweed caviar still offers fresh sea flavours to complement the papaya and pine nuts.
To draw the dish together this recipe uses a homemade mayonnaise made with boiled egg. A small amount of sesame oil and capers impart deeper complexity to the mayonnaise, which combines surprisingly well with the earthiness of the pine nuts and the delicious umami notes of the caviar.
Ingredients for 6 starter plates:
For the mayonnaise dressing:
1 soft boiled egg (5 minutes)
½ garlic glove, minced
7,5 ml (½ tablespoon) capers
7,5 ml (½ tablespoon) prepared mustard
100 ml neutral such as sunflower or canola oil
10 ml (2 teaspoons) dark sesame oil
Juice of one small lemon
30 ml water
20 g sourdough bread, without crusts
3 ml salt
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
For the papaya plates:
1 just ripe, firm papaya, peeled and cut into thin ribbons using a sharp knife – the papaya should not be green, but one that is too ripe will not make pretty ribbons
90 ml (6 tablespoons) caviar or more affordable seaweed caviar
125 ml (½ cup) pine nuts, toasted fairly dark
30 ml (6 teaspoons) flavourful olive oil
Selection of edible flowers and herbs such as bronze fennel
Grinding of fresh pepper
First prepare the mayonnaise. Soak the bread in the water for a few minutes, then squeeze the water out by hand. Place all the remaining ingredients, apart from the oils, in an upright blender (or in a tall jug using a stick blender). Blend together, and then slowly drizzle in the oil until a think emulsion is achieved.
Smear a large dollop of mayonnaise over the bottoms of 6 plates or wide bowls. Arrange the papaya ribbons over the mayonnaise. Dollop a few more teaspoons of mayonnaise in between the ribbons, dot a tablespoon of caviar per plate here and there. Scatter a teaspoon of pine nuts over the plate, drizzle with some olive oil, decorate with flowers and herbs and grind over some black pepper.