Welcoming Australia's National Treasure, Margaret Fulton, to the cooking school on numerous occasions years ago was a real privilege and most memorable for me. For not only have I always admired Margaret's passion for cooking, but the dishes the lady prepared, and the gusto with which she prepared them, was nothing short of awesome!
One of the recipes that Margaret cooked was Poached Tamarillos with Highland Mist. The recipe was from her book, A Passionate Cook (Lansdowne). This dessert remains forever imprinted on my taste buds. Each year I can barely wait for tamarillos to be in season and was delighted when I saw some at my local greengrocer recently.
For the uninitiated, tamarillos (Cyphomandra betacea), or tree tomatoes, are egg-sized yellow, orange or red fruits. I think they are a most beautiful, yet perhaps least known and least appreciated fruit!
So, what does a tamarillo taste like? To my palate, the taste is quite distinctive and tangy, perhaps best described as a blend of tart passionfruit with vine-ripened tomato. Inside the bitter inedible skin lies a deliciously tangy, soft flesh with seeds not unlike the texture of a tomato.
Tamarillos are versatile and can be served either cooked or fresh. To enjoy the fruit fresh, simply cut ripe fruit in half and scoop out the flesh and pulp with a spoon. You can serve tamarillos with a platter of cheese. Tamarillo is also delicious in tarts and other sweet baked goodies, and makes a lovely sauce for smoked or rich meats, such as duck.
When buying tamarillos, look for ripe fruit which feel firm and have yellow/black stems. Ask an expert (a.k.a. your favourite fruiterer) to choose for you if you are unsure. Ripe fruit should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator and, stored correctly, will keep for up to three weeks. A final note: it is advisable not to cut tamarillos on a wooden or other such surface, as the juice leaves a permanent stain.
You say (tree) tomato, I say tamarillo...
VANILLA POACHED TAMARILLOS
To poach tamarillos al la Margaret Fulton and make a dessert for six people, start with 12 tamarillos. Then combine in a saucepan 375 mls of water with half a cup of caster sugar and half a vanilla bean (seeds scraped) or one teaspoon good vanilla extract. Bring slowly to the boil.
When the sugar has dissolved add the tamarillos, then reduce the heat and gently poach the fruit for about five or six minutes. Remove the fruit and boil the syrup to reduce the amount of liquid by about half. Carefully peel the fruit and place it into a bowl. Pour over the syrup and pop into the refrigerator until you're ready to serve. You can either serve the fruit whole or halved with cream, custard or with Margaret's Highland Mist.
MARGARET FULTON'S HIGHLAND MIST
To make Highland Mist, you need 18-20 coconut macaroons, biscotti or amaretti biscuits, which you crush with a rolling pin. Place the crushed biscuits into a bowl and add two or three tablespoons of fresh light cream and four tablespoons of good whisky (Margaret's favourite). Stir the mixture to a paste and then Margaret suggests that you spread a layer in a small crystal or glass bowl. Cover this layer with some double whipping cream that has been whipped with some vanilla essence or vanilla bean paste. Repeat the layers until all the macaroon mixture is used up. Chill the Highland Mist and serve it with fresh sliced strawberries or the poached tamarillos. This amount will serve six.
Gently poach the whole fruit in a vanilla syrup...
A dessert that remains imprinted on my taste buds...
This recipe has been reinvigorated from the archives on my Market Basket pages, where it was originally published in 2011, so many of you won't have seen it. It's one of my favourite dessert recipes and as such I am delighted to be able to share it far and wide. I do hope you will add it to your repertoire.
Tell me dear readers, have you ever tasted a tamarillo or tree tomato? Do you grow them? What's your favourite way of eating them?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.