Friday, 11 July 2008


“Chacun à son gout” – French proverb

It’s the heart of winter in Melbourne and we are having cold nights and cool, grey days. It’s nice to come back home and feel the warmth after battling with the wind and sheets of fine rain that occasionally fall (not enough to break the drought, though!). The garden looks slightly dejected this time of the year and one is reluctant to venture there. However, in a back corner a surprise awaits – the tamarillo tree (tree tomato, Solanum betaceum). Its red, smooth egg-shaped fruit look like Christmas ornaments, brightening with their shiny gloss the darkest, gloomiest Winter day.

Some people do not like the taste of the tamarillo and some cooks are slightly confused – should it be treated as a fruit or as a vegetable? The answer is simple. Either! As there are quite a lot of fruit on our tree, this weekend it will be tamarillo cooking time:

Tamarillo Chutney
2 ½ kg tamarillos
4 medium onions chopped
3 apples, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons grated root ginger
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
4 cups white vinegar

Place tamarillos in a bowl and cover with boiling water allowing to soak stand for 3-4 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel the tamarillos and slice into a saucepan. Add the chopped onions, apples, garlic and root ginger.
Add the cloves and peppercorns (tied in muslin) and stir in the spices, salt, sugar and vinegar.
Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 and 1⁄2 hours, until thick like jam. Pack into hot clean jars. Seal when cold. Makes about 8 cups.

A chutney (for the uninitiated) is from the Hindi cātnī (from cātnā, to taste), and is a spicy condiment that contains fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices. It can range in texture from chunky to smooth and in degrees of spiciness from mild to hot. Chutney is a delicious accompaniment to curried dishes. The sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese.

My first encounter with tamarillos was a couple of decades ago (doesn’t that sound ages ago!?) in New Zealand, when I first tasted them in a gourmet dish of venison. Since then I have had a love-hate relationship with these curious fruits. If cooked well, they can taste wonderful, if badly, they are truly disgusting. If of a good variety and ripe they can be delicious in fruit salads, if unripe and eaten alone, they are awful. In the chutney recipe above, they are adequately disguised and can be eaten with relative safety…

The illustration is an oil painting by Melbourne artist, Judith Perrey” “Tamarillos and Batik”

No comments:

Post a Comment