Papaya Cube Salad

by Dr. Hennie Fisher – University of Pretoria

Fruit salad is probably not something that one needs a recipe for. However, since most people just cut up fruit and place it in a bowl, it often lacks that little extra to make it spectacular, particularly if all the fruits used aren’t perfectly ripe. But fruit salad made well could be a thing of wonder and make a wonderful dessert, with little hints of lemon, possibly a dash of honey or a little note of fresh mint. Macerating the fruit is non-negotiable and a step most people skip. To do this, boil together sugar and water with fragrant spices such as a cinnamon quill, star anise, a sizeable piece of fresh ginger, or a strip of lemon rind to create a simple syrup. The elements that one can add into the sugar syrup to impart subtle flavour is almost endless and can include flavours from across the globe, such as lemongrass, lemon verbena, saffron, cardamom, a bit of mandarin brandy or a good, old-fashioned schnapps. The aim here is to give the sugar syrup just a hint of flavour that will enhance the fruit. Once the sugar syrup has steeped sufficiently, cool it, place the fruit in it and let the fruit mellow in the syrup for an hour or two. Afterwards drain the syrup off (do not serve it with the fruit salad, as it will be too sweet and cloying – use it for something else, such as making a papaya cordial), and serve the fruit bright and glistering from a coating of syrup. Alternatively, such as in this recipe, simply toss the fruit in fresh lemon juice and some castor sugar. Whatever you do, please just do not serve the fruit naked and without giving it a little love and affection.

Massimo Bottura is a world-renowned Italian chef who recently invited soccer legend David Beckham to play along in his restaurant kitchen (there is an entertaining video you can Google to see their interaction). The plating below is inspired by their dance around the service table, each splattering a colourful sauce onto the plates. Here the off-cuts have been turned into three brightly coloured and intensely fruity sauces to accompany the fruit salad, preventing food wastage and elevating your fruit salad from a humdrum bowl of home food into something one can serve with confidence at a smart dinner.

In this recipe, no kiwi or green melon was included, but either could be a most suitable addition. One could also use these fruits to make a green sauce. In this instance green sauce was made by blending banana with a few stems of parsley in a liquidizer (do not be alarmed: the parsley merely adds a fresh grassy note to the sauce and imparts an intense green colour). This salad could easily be converted into a delicious starter by adding something savoury like smoked trout or salmon.

Ingredients for 4 plated fruit salads:

½ pineapple, cut into 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cubes – reserve the leftovers
½ papaya, cut into 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cubes – reserve the leftovers
2 red plums, cut into 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cubes – reserve the leftovers
4 large strawberries, cut into 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cubes – reserve the leftovers
2 bananas, cut into 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cubes – reserve the leftovers
4 raspberries, cut in half
12 blueberries
2 whole lemons, juiced
60 ml (4 tablespoons) castor sugar
4 sprigs fresh broadleaf parsley
Edible flowers


Toss the fruit in one tablespoon of castor sugar with the juice of half a lemon. Make three sauces by separately liquidising all discarded bits of the red fruits for red sauce, the papaya for orange sauce, the banana and parsley for the green sauce with the juice of half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of castor sugar for each colour.
Purée until smooth, strain and set aside until you are ready to plate.
Splash the three sauces in a random pattern over plates, attractively arrange the cubes of fruit on the sauce and decorate with edible flowers.