Wednesday, February 29, 2012
ABOUT: Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum) is a native to southern Brazil in the tomato Solanacea family and easy to grow in tropical and sub-tropical gardens. It is a fruit I was not familiar with until I came to Australia, but love it's fresh clean taste and versatility in cooking. I have four plants in my suburban garden and they hardly take up any room at all, being an open and shrubby small tree that responds well to pruning after fruiting - so the fruit are easy to pick season to season - they will get to 4m if you let them.
This fruit typifies what sustainable living and cooking with abundance is all about. We may have to re-jig our taste buds and learn some new recipes but you surely this is better than buying out of season, tasteless, plastic boxed, strawberries from a supermarket that started their journey hundred of miles away? (Browsing in my local Coles supermarket yesterday confirmed why they are economic and environmental dinosaurs and why I don't shop in them. In this land of plenty they had a special on fresh asparagus from PERU!!)
Because they are quite shallow rooted they are a fantastic plant to incorporate in a 'food hedge' as they don't over compete with the plants around them for water and nutrients - just remember the mulching.
In late summer they produce a crop of ovoid fruit, either orange, purple or a yellowy colour. The skin is never eaten and flesh scooped out to be eaten fresh or cooked. Grazing children love to just bite the top off and squeeze the tangy, tart flesh straight into the mouth. Oh - I did I mention their amazing nutritional properties - here goes:
TAMARILLO and NUTRITION: The tree tomato is an excellent source of antioxidants because it contains a type of flavonoid known as anthocyanins. Furthermore, and more importantly it contains the carotenoids lycopene and beta carotene (vitamin A).
Lycopene’s principle health benefit is to neutralize or inhibit oxygen derived free radicals. Free radicals are implicated in causing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Lycopene, along with the other carotenoids, beta-corotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, help protect and repair cells against DNA damage, thereby helping to prevent premature aging. However, of the four carotenoids, lycopene has by far the most antioxidant activity.
The group of flavonoids called anthocyanins are found in red or purple plant color pigments, known as phytochemicals. These flavonoids are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and they help neutralize free radicals. They can also provide health benefits against diabetes, nuerological diseases, cancer and aging.
Tamarillo is also a good source of vitamin C, as well as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium.
USES IN COOKING:
Poached: I first had them this way at La Luciola Restaurant in Bali. The pointy end of the fruit was scored with a cross so that when they were cooked it peeled back like a flower. They were poached with star anise and served with honeyed yoghurt. (It's funny how I remember all of this but forget who I was with and when it was!) I have served them like this many times since then, often with a sweet baked ricotta. They are also good stewed with other fruits and berries - just scoop them out of their skin first.
Jam: They make a fabulous jam - either by itself or with other fruit - that sets really well beacause they are so high in pectin.
Chutneys: I have come across various recipes for this. As soon as all the crop is in (and we stop eating them!) I will try some and post up the recipe.
NOTE: See below for a scrummy Tamarillo Yeast Cake recipe.
Monday, February 27, 2012
|Tamarillo Yeast Cake - February Garden Club morning tea cake|
I have adapted this delicious cake from a Stephanie Alexander recipe where she uses rhubarb instead of tamarillo - apple or plums would also be good. The smell of it baking in the oven is enough to make you rush and put the kettle on!
300g tamarillo pulp. Cut fruit in half and scoop out with a spoon.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sultanas or currants
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sweet wine or sherry
extra brown sugar
2tsp instant dried yeast
200g plain flour (I use organic unbleached)
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
Mix tamarillo with all other ingredients except cinnamon and extra sugar and let it soak while you are making the dough.
To make the dough. Mix yeast, flour and salt in a bowl.
Warm milk with butter and sugar until butter has just melted. Pour into flour.
Add egg and work to a smooth dough.
Cover with a tea towel and leave in draught-free spot until doubled in size. (about 1 hour)
Knock back dough and spread on oiled tray to make a rough circle about 3cm thick.
Drain fruit mixture and spread over centre of dough. Retain liquid it has soaked in.
Cut strips in dough every 3cm around edge and fold over fruit mixture (see photo).
Cover with clean tea towel and leave for second rising - about 30 mins.
Heat oven to 180oC then bake for approx 30 mins until golden crust has formed.
Meanwhile heat soaking liquid in a small saucepan until it is reduced and syrupy. Pour over cake 5 mins before it has finished baking (it gives a shiny, sticky topping)
Allow to cool and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture (optional).
Saturday, February 18, 2012
When I do eat meat though I have to know where it has come from and only eat 'organic'. In a previous life I worked in medical research and, as a very young woman, worked for surgeons and specialists in many different fields. I remember asking one physician if there was anything he wouldn't eat and he said "Yes, liver because it is the cesspit of the body. I would only eat it if I had grown the animal myself or knew exactly where it had come from". I took this on board and never ate liver again unless it was organic although it was common dish for me growing up.
I came from a family though who ate 'nose to tail' in a way that is suddenly fashionable again - for them, in post-war Britain on a very small income, it was a matter of necessity. All of this is kind of in the blood for me - so to speak. My maternal grandmother started her very successful catering/hospitality career by opening a 'cooked meats' shop in the front window of her terraced house in Birmingham when her husband became an invalid (he had an accident on his penny-farthing bicycle - or so the story goes!) and she had three children to bring up. Black pudding and faggots were her speciality (Google them!).
My mother loved pigs trotters with split peas and my father brawn (a kind of pressed meat) made from a whole pigs head which he used to saw in half and then boil with herbs and spices (the eyes and teeth were truly gruesome and fortunately omitted from the finished dish). After being sawn in half the brains were reserved for breakfast, quickly sauteed in butter and served on toast - delicious. My father was a policeman in the City of London and the meat market was on his beat and lots of 'bargains' thankfully came his way - the whole pigs head banged it's way home in a muslin bag tied to the side of his bicycle. Other regular appearances in out diet were stuffed sheep hearts, kidneys, tripe, giblet soup, oxtail and tongue, sweetbreads and all kinds of brains. None of which gets a regular appearance on modern family menus. NOTE: My dad and mum are still alive (90 and 85)
|'The offal eaters' about taken in 2007|
So, when I noticed that our local organic butcher had some duck livers I remembered this pate based on an Elizabeth David recipe. ( I think he must have sold out by now as three friends who have tried this recipe have already been down there to get some livers and make their own).
NOTE: You can also use organic chicken livers just omit the juniper berries and add a few thyme leaves instead
|Anyone for duck?|
60 g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely crushed
1 tsp juniper berries or allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 level tsp salt
shot glass of sherry
half shot glass cognac/brandy
Melt butter in saucepan with bay leaves.
Remove any sinews from livers and saute in butter with garlic for a few minutes. They should still be a bit pink in the middle.
Ground juniper berries with salt in mortar and pestle and add to livers. Give a stir
Remove bay leaves
Add sherry and cognac
Stick blend until smooth and paste like
Chill in fridge with covering pressed over pate (or it will darken and go too hard) - it will firm up.
Serve with bread and some date and tamarind chutney (to be posted later!) and let me know what you think.
|Anyone for lunch at the Cafe de France - it will probably be duck!|
Saturday, February 11, 2012
|Comfrey growing next to the compost bin|
Herbalists grow comfrey for its many healing and medicinal properties - and have been doing so for centuries. It grows wild in the hedgerows, where I come from, and is known as 'knitbone' for it's usefulness in reducing swelling and bruising.
Farmers have traditionally used it for animal fodder as it is rich in protein and minerals. Chickens are pretty smart at knowing what's good for them too and comfrey is the first thing they go for if they are foraging around the garden. TOP TIP: Plant comfrey around the chook house.
Gardeners grow and harvest comfrey to use as plant food and soil conditioner. There are a few different varieties, but the one generally grown for garden use is Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum).
Comfrey is very easy to grow and harvest, producing large quantities of leaves that are rich in minerals drawn up from the soil by a long tap root.
How is comfrey used by gardeners?
- As a compost activator to produce and enrich compost
- To make liquid feed and compost tea fertilizers
- As a fertilizing mulch
The plant has large, hairy leaves and tubular, purple flowers on tall stems that grows to a maximum 1m and spreads about the same. It has a large tap root that can grow to a depth of 3m and, for this reason it is a good idea to plant it where you intend to keep it and not move it around. The large root system does the job of 'mining' minerals from the soil up into the plant - this is why it is such a fantastic 'dynamic accumulator'. It also grows very rapidly - one plant giving up to 2.5kg per cut then regrowing to give about three to four cuts per season.
Why use comfrey?
- It has a high content of the three plant macro-nutrients NITROGEN(N), PHOSPHORUS(P) AND POTASSIUM(K). Comfrey is higher in nitrogen and potassium than farmyard manures and garden compost and about the same for phosphorus. Plants need nitrogen for healthy leaf growth, phosphorus for root growth and potassium to produce health flowers, fruit and seeds.
- Comfrey leaves have a relatively low carbon to nitrogen ratio. This means there is no risk of nitrogen 'robbery' when comfrey leaves are dug into the soil. It also has a low fibre content which means comfrey leaves decompose rapidly. That's why it makes such a fantastic mulch plant - that quickly revitalizes the soil.
- It's low fibre content and high nutrient content means it breaks down quickly when added to water - releasing all those wonderful nutrients to make perfect liquid fertilizer.
- Adding a few comfrey leaves to your compost heap will help it break down more quickly. Because it is so jam packed with nutrients it stimulates activity in the heap - that's why it known as a 'compost activator'.
TOP TIP: Have one comfrey plant next to your compost heap so you always have a few leaves to add. Plant it in the 'dead' spots in your garden where is isn't taking up useful garden beds.
SEE PREVIOUS POSTS: Composting. Hot Composting. No-Dig Garden Beds. Compost Tea