Serves 4 to 6
Active Time: 1 hour
I’ll be honest: lychees are hard to cook with. That said, this recipe is fairly simple to follow and lovely to eat. The lychees, already pungently floral, take on the almost-syrupy richness of the poaching liquid, which only intensifies as they sit, waiting for their ice cream bed. If there is any fundamental concept to take away from the recipe, it’s this: a little wine, a few spices and some fruit, and you have a simple, sumptuous dessert.
12 lychees, pitted and halved
2 ½ cup of water
1 ½ cup of manischewitz wine or port (any sweet wine will do)
⅔ cup of white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ to a whole vanilla bean
8 to 10 whole cloves
10 to 15 whole black peppercorns
Remaining poaching liquid
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
Lychees with ice cream. Photo courtesy of Cipora Cohon.
1. Begin by measuring the water and wine into a wide saucepan. Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds, adding to pan. Add bean to pan.
2. As you prepare the lychees (see my notes on slicing lychees here) begin bringing the poaching liquid to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Simmering lychees. Photo courtesy of Cipora Cohon.
3. Add lychee halves, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. The lychees will take on a pink tint and their white outsides may appear to bruise, although this will not impact their flavor. They may begin to curl in on themselves, which is not ideal but is only preventable by taking care to cut or split the lychees in even halves.
4. Uncover and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruits to a plate.
5. The poaching liquid itself is quite delicious at this point; it loses its manischewitz tang and takes on the flavor of mulled wine. Because of this, and the fact that poaching liquid seems to go to waste otherwise, I decided to reduce it down to a sauce. Take the pan off the heat.
6. Strain out or remove spices; careful, the vanilla beans disappear in the liquid, but may stick to the lychees in unattractive black clumps. Those are best left in the liquid to add depth to the sauce.
7. Make a slurry; add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to ¼ cup of water and stir to mix. Add in to strained liquid.
8. Simmer until it has reduced enough to pass the spoon test (when the back of a spoon, dipped in the sauce, maintains the line your finger swipe across it leaves), or until you are satisfied with its consistency. Let cool.
9. Serve lychees and sauce on their own or as companions to ice cream— they work beautifully with cream and sugar!
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The distinct line in the spoon means it passes the test.
Photo courtesy of Cipora Cohon.