Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An Antipodean Interpretation

While browsing through the fantastic Argentine food blog, El Cuerpo de Cristo (Body of Christ), I found Martin's post on Tomate del Arbol (tree tomato). These egg-shaped exotic beauties can now be found in Abasto where there is a Peruvian community.

Tree Tomato is native to Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. In Argentina where it is cultivated, the fruit is largely seen as an ethnic ingredient. It has yet to gain the mainstream popularity it deserves.

This same fruit which the antipodeans called Tamarillo is grown as a commercial crop for international export in New Zealand and to a lesser extent in Australia.

The raw tamarillo has a pleasingly sweet exotic scent but is bitter and sour to taste. Like quince (membrillo), sugar and heat would magically release its inner beauty.

Poached tamarillo is an ideal companion to a quivering panna cotta or an indulgent bowl of vanilla ice cream. It provides a modern twist to a French clafoutis or an English crumble. Should you prefer something savoury as pudding, you could serve tamarillo chutney with a selection of cheeses.

The fruit is also a perfect match to white meat such as turkey and pork. A port wine and tamarillo reduction would add finesse to an otherwise bland dish. Some Italians prefer to roast them with a little brown sugar with potatoes and chicken. The French add them to their ratatouille.

The possibilities with this fruit is endless; at A$2 for 6 we have no excuse not to experiment to find our favourite recipe using these tomatoes grown on trees.

I would turn to no other but the most famous antipodean culinary export, Peter Gordon of the Sugar Club and the Providores fame, for instructions on tamarillos...

To poach tamarillos in red wine and chilli syrup, lightly score a cross through the skin at the pointed end of 6 fruits.

In a smallish pan, just large enough to hold the fruit in one layer; bring 1 bottle of a light spicy red wine (a shiraz/syrah or pinot noir would be good) and 2 cups of water to the boil. Add 3 cups of sugar or two cups of manuka honey or any dark honey, half a red chilli, chopped, 1 cinnamon quill and a tablespoon of sliced ginger and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the tamarillos and bring to the boil, put a lid on and simmer for 2 minutes only, then take off the heat and leave to cool. Store, covered, in the fridge for at least 24 hours. The poached fruits and syrup go fantastically with panna cotta, ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

For a savoury dish, split the fruit in half lengthways, lay cut side facing up on non-stick baking parchment, sprinkle generously with brown sugar or honey and bake them at 160 degrees for 40-50 minutes. They will dry a little and are lovely served with cheese or New Zealand venison, so says the maestro .

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