Friday, July 4, 2008

The Giving Tree

One day, while strolling in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, I happened upon a large tree heavy with golden fruit. No, this is not the beginning of a fable, but rather my introduction to the tangy tree tomato, or tamarillo. Being a curious and fearless raw foodist, I went ahead and plucked a ripe fruit for tasting. Beneath a slightly bitter skin lay a sweet, juicy interior with a pleasant hint of tartness - a flavor and texture like a cross between a passionfruit and a tomato. I simply couldn't let this bounty go ungathered, so I returned the next day with a sack and a lookout and picked myself enough tree tomatoes for hours of culinary experimentation. This was urban foraging at its finest.

While it has many traits in common with its vine-grown namesake, such as an abundance of seeds and classification as a fruit, the tree tomato is actually much sweeter and better suited to desserts and chutneys. Hence its 1967 rechristening with the much sexier name "tamarillo" by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council. Though the fruit is native to the South American continent, it is cultivated commercially for export in New Zealand, and also widely grown in a dozen other countries scattered through the globe. The fruit's new name is actually more than a cosmetic image boost; it is an expression of the globalization of one humble foodstuff. It reflects its South American origins by incorporating the word "amarillo," meaning yellow, its significance in New Zealand with the word "tama," meaning leadership, and its similarity to the word "tomato."

A lot of my fruit gets eaten whole, as a snack, or mixed into smoothies. But I found the outer flesh of the tamarillo a bit too bitter to enjoy it by itself, and the occasional hard seeds unsuited to smoothies. So it was time for me to get creative.

First off, I took its South American origins as inspiration and created a salsa. Not a traditional vegetable salsa, but a tangy-sweet fruit salsa, that could be eaten as a condiment or a side salad. Pear was my choice as a subtly sweet counterpoint to the tamarillo's tartness, and I dressed the combination up simply with fresh flavors of coriander, red onion, and apple cider vinegar. This recipe is simple, versatile, and delicious. What more can you want?

Tamarillo and Pear Salsa

2 large red sensation pears, cut into 1/4 inch dice
8 tamarillos, cut into 1/4 inch dice, hard seeds carefully removed
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 tsp dried coriander
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
dash of Himalayan salt

Chop pears and tamarillos into 1/4 inch dice, being careful to remove the hard seeds from the tamarillo (located in the flesh along the sides). Mince coriander and red onion and toss with fruits. Add dried coriander, vinegar, and salt, and toss to coat. Serves 6-8 as condiment, 4 as a side dish (shown here with Mexican corn salad - a post for another day).

My next idea was to make a chutney, inspired by tomato-ginger chutneys I've enjoyed in the past alongside Indian food. This was made to accompany my caulibroc curry, and it served as a sweet flavor counterpoint to the spicy curry.

Tamarillo Chutney
1 cup tamarillos, finely chopped and hard seeds removed (approx. 6-8 tamarillos)
2 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, minced
1 tsp fresh chili, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp oil (olive, safflower, sunflower, or other mild oil)

Finely chop tamarillos. Add minced ginger, coriander, chili and spices. Mix thoroughly. Whisk together honey, vinegar and oil. Toss with tamarillo mixture coat. Stir chutney until it becomes paste-like, and allow to rest for at least 1/2 hour before serving for flavors to develop. Serve with vegetable curry. *Variations: if your curry is very spicy you may wish to omit the chili in the chutney. The chutney can be made sweeter, to taste, by adding more honey. Or add one minced clove of garlic if you dare!

Happy with my salad and condiment experiments, I wanted to try using the tamarillo in a dessert to really highlight its sweet, gooey interior. This time I looked closer to home for my inspiration. Since the fruit grows so well in Australia and New Zealand, why not draw upon the world of Kiwi and Down Under desserts? And why not use the tamarillo seeds like passionfruit? My first thought was of the ubiquitous passionfruit-topped pavlova, but creating a raw version of the meringue-like cake baffled me. Scrapping the pavlova idea, I decided that carob would be a good flavor match for the tamarillos, if I could find the right platform. My next thought was to create something reminiscent of a self-saucing carob pudding, topped with tamarillos. Again, I just didn't know how to create a raw cake with a hard exterior and soft interior.

Finally, I saw this carrot cake recipe posted at Eureka! The moistness and natural sweetness of a carrot cake was exactly what I was looking for. With a few changes and the addition of carob powder, I had my cake base. In between cake layers and for a beautifully tempting top, I added a simple cashew cream icing and lots of tamarillo seeds. This is a pretty special cake: very raw, very Australian, and very serendipitous.

Carob Carrot Tamarillo Cake

3 cups grated carrot
1 cup pitted dates, preferably California (if not the soft Cali kind, soak them in water for an hour to soften)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 cup shredded dried coconut
4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup ground cashews
6 Tbsp carob powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked in water to cover at least 2 hours and drained
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
water as needed
15 tamarillos

Grate or shred carrots (I use the grater attachment on my food processor for this - saves time and your knuckles compared to the old-fashioned hand grater). Place grated carrots in a fine mesh seive and press out as much liquid as possible. Pour the carrot juice into a glass and drink up (you need your energy while unbaking!). Alternatively, if you're a juicer, save the pulp from juicing carrots and use that instead.

Place dates in food processor and process into a paste. Add all of the remaining cake ingredients and process until well mixed. You will probably need to do this in 2 batches unless you have a really huge food processor.

Rub 2 springform cake pans with a little oil (I like coconut). Divide batter evenly between pans and spread smoothly using a rubber spatula. Dehydrate at 45 celsius/115 farenheit for 4 hours (this can be done in large tray dehydrator or oven, if your oven can be set at low temps). Remove sides of springform pans and invert cakes onto plates. One at a time, slide a large blunt knife or pie serving utensil along edges and under cakes to remove them from the bottom of springform pans. Place cakes, plate and all, back into dehydrator for another 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make your icing. Place soaked and drained cashews, agave, lemon juice and vanilla in food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, adding water as need to achieve a rich yet light consistency.

Cut the tamarillos in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, making sure to avoid the hard seeds in the fleshy lining. Place the seeds into a bowl and set aside.

Remove both cakes from the dehydrator. Spread 1/3 of the icing over one cake with a knife or spatula. Top with 1/2 of the tamarillo seeds. Carefully place the second cake over the first. Top with another 1/3 of the icing. Spread the remaining 1/3 of the icing around the sides of the cake. Top with cake with the other 1/2 of the tamarillo seeds. Cut as desired and serve!

Have a square, or three! I brought this cake to a raw potluck so we cut it into squares for easy sharing. Good thing I took a photo of it before I left home (in dismal nighttime lighting), because it was consumed quickly! Thank you, tamarillo tree.


BerryBliss said...

Hey there gorgeous girl, I am so glad you gave me your blog address, its YUMMY! I have just read everything and I am looking forward to trying ALL your recipes...keep em coming!

Love BB

Jessica Loyer said...

Hiya BB, so glad you like the blog. YUMMY is what I was going for! Thanks for hosting a fantastic party...delicious food and fabulous company. See you at the next one. Wonder what I'll make?

Anonymous said...

Hey Now. I was just looking at your rare tuna salad recipe and I must say it looks and sounds fantastic. Now I just have to find the ingredients. Your tour of Melborne makes me want to come and visit. So sad it is so far away.

Love and kisses

Daddy R

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