THE words "fruit salad" seldom set the pulse racing.

I envisage a large serving bowl of mixed, clumsily chopped fruit, swimming around in too much liquid; probably, it lies untouched and overlooked, either at the edge of a breakfast buffet, or on the table among dinner party desserts as the healthy option. Fruit salad, in short, has an image problem. It needs a makeover.

Once upon a time, fruit salad meant a tin. Then it graduated to a mix of grapes, oranges, strident grapefruit plus apple and banana slices, both of which turned an unappetising brown colour through oxidisation. No wonder we all avoided it. Today, it is an international jet-setter, with exotic tastes: pineapple, mango, passion fruit or papaya are all expected to fly in for the party. So there has been some progress.

But all these versions share one mistake: they are a confused mish-mash, thrown together with the assumption that "anything goes". No other food preparation suffers this lazy treatment. Focusing on just two or three well-matched ingredients gives fruit salad the missing component: attitude.

A bowl of peaches, nectarines and raspberries makes perfect sense to me, as would a combination of juicy ripe melons such as Cantaloupe, Galia and Charentais, or summery strawberries sliced with bulging blueberries. Batons of pineapple and mango tossed with passion fruit is complex and elegant enough without further gate-crashers. Add mint or basil (at the last moment to prevent discolouring) for zippy freshness; a whisper of bitter Campari or aromatic gin in the evenings lends grown up glamour.

Pineapple and mango in a rum and passion fruit dressing

Recipes serve 4

1 very ripe pineapple

2 ripe mangos

2 passion fruits

2-3 dstsp rum (dark or light) optional

8 or mint leaves


1. To test pineapple ripeness, tug one of the leaves from the top: it should come away easily. The base too should smell sweetly perfumed. Set a sturdy chopping board on damp kitchen paper towel to prevent the board sliding around. Working on this board, lay the pineapple on its side and cut off and discard the leafy top then turn the pineapple around and cut off 2-3 cms of the base. Stand the pineapple upright on this flat base and slice the skin away from top to bottom, following the natural curve of the fruit. You can afford to cut at least half a centimetre into the fruit and up to 1cm to ensure that the spiky eyes are all removed. Set aside and clean the chopping board.

2. Top and tail the mango to create a flat top and flat base. Slice the skin away starting at the top and working around the natural shape of the fruit towards the base. Discard the skin then set the mangoes aside for the moment. Clean the board. Both these steps can be done a few hours in advance: wrap each piece of fruit individually in cling film and refrigerate.

3. Slice the pineapple into thick fingers, cutting downwards in slabs about 1.5cm thick, working towards the middle, but not cutting through the woody core. Then cut across each of these slabs into desired size fingers then set aside in a mixing bowl.

4. Now do the same with the mango, either slicing into fingers or into cubes. Add these to the pineapple.

5. Halve the passion fruits, scoop out the pulp and seeds into a small bowl then add the rum if using; stir well to combine. Drizzle the passion fruit over the mango and pineapple and toss very gently so as not to bruise the fruit.

6. To serve: arrange the pineapple and mango in a serving dish. Spoon over any leftover passion fruit juice still in the mixing bowl then scatter the mint leaves and serve at once.

Peach, nectarine and rose petal salad

3 very ripe peaches

3 very ripe nectarines

3 tbsp elderflower cordial

A dash of sugar to taste

Few basil leaves

Petals from a pale rose


1. Place the cordial in a medium-sized bowl and add a little water as if you were preparing to water down the cordial for drinking. Taste and check it is not too strong, adjust accordingly with more water (or more cordial) until you have a liquid that is full flavoured but that you would be happy to drink. Set aside for the moment.

2. Halve the peaches and nectarines and discard the stones. Slice a slim wedge off a piece of peach and nectarine to taste the sweetness. If needed, add a little sugar to the cordial. Add the peaches an nectarines to the cordial and ensure they are covered in the liquid.

3. Tear or shred basil leaves into the liquid and stir in. Refrigerate until needed, up to five hours.

4. To serve, divide the fruit between serving bowls and scatter rose petals over the top. Spoon a little of the liquid over then serve. If you wish you can add a few raspberries to each plate.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206