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Last Christmas we were in Brazil staying with friends.  It was hot and sunny, there were vultures and toucans in the trees, and the mangos and avocados were ripening – Christmas with a difference, for us at least.  The farm we were staying on had a well-stocked orchard, so we were eating a lot of freshly picked fruit.  Aside from the mangos and avocados, there were starfruit, oranges and acerola (which make a great juice) from the orchard, and pineapples and watermelons from the market.

On our first morning in Brazil, we were each given a pair of Havaianas – and told they were essential Brazilian footwear.  And we wore them everyday for the three weeks that we spent there.  When we got back home it was January, and the Havaianas were put away in a cupboard to wait for the UK summer to arrive.  Finally, at the end of July, it’s Havaiana weather – time to get them out of the cupboard and adopt a more laid back approach to life.

And a more laid back approach to food too.  I love cooking, but when the weather is good why spend more time than you have to in the kitchen?  What’s needed is quick and easy dishes, especially ones that taste even better eaten outdoors.

Lime

Like this fruit salad – made with chunks of watermelon, pieces of ripe mango, blueberries and a few last raspberries from the garden.  Add a touch of sweetness and a citrusy, minty zing with a drizzle of lime and mint syrup, and you have a healthy, tasty and refreshing summer dessert.

Fruit Salad with Lime & Mint Syrup

For the syrup –

1 cup golden caster sugar

1 cup water

Juice and grated zest of 2 limes

1 cup fresh mint leaves, washed

For the fruit salad –

Watermelon, mango, ripe summer berries, grapes, pineapple, banana… pick your favourite fruits, peel (if peeling is needed), chop them up and toss them all into a big bowl.

To make the syrup –

Put the sugar, water, lime juice and zest into a small saucepan and heat gently.  Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, then increase the temperature and bring to the boil.  Take the pan off the heat, crush the mint leaves a little until they start to release their fragrance then add them to the pan and stir.  Leave the syrup mixture to one side for 30 minutes to allow the mint leaves to release their flavour.  After half an hour, strain the mixture to remove the leaves and put in the fridge to chill.

While the syrup is chilling, assemble the fruit salad and just before serving drizzle it with a few spoonfuls of the syrup – check the flavour and add more syrup if you like.

The syup makes a refreshing drink too – dilute it with sparkling water, add ice cubes and enjoy on a hot afternoon.  It’s especially good when you’ve been working hard in the garden, but I’m sure it would be equally acceptable while watching the Olympics and cheering on your home team!

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