Saturday, 30 May 2009

Feijoas, Green Tomatoes and Cauliflower

I've been on a spree to use things up. The things I had were feijoas and green tomatoes from the garden, and an old cauliflower, bought to make roast cauli with almonds, to go with a chicken risotto. But I didn't get around to making it until this week, and the cauli had gone rather limp. I bought a small fresh half to make the roast veg, and relegated the older one to soup.

I was quite happy about this, as we'd had a lovely curried cauliflower soup while visiting friends in Melbourne. It was a novel idea to me: curried parsnip is a classic, but cauliflower? I couldn't quite remember the details, but we had a a brief email exchange and A reminded me that coconut was the missing element. I went on to make a soup inspired by hers, rather than the exact same soup.

I got the green tomatoes from my plants. They went all brown and crinkly one night, so we must have had a frost. The feijoas just fell out of the sky. Well, OK, the tree. But you find them on the ground.

Feijoas are very popular in New Zealand, and the trees grow quite well in Canberra. They're bushy and evergreen, and have pretty flowers with a central fireburst of red stamens. They do like a reasonable amount of water to set good fruit, so the one in my back garden closer to the water tank did much better than the one down the side.

The fruit is always green. It simply falls off the tree when it is ripe. If you try to pick it, then if it just falls off into your hand, it is ready. Or you can shake the tree. If the fruit falls onto cement it will get bruised, but a good mulch ground cover is enough to protect most of it.

I've been eating the larger better ones straight. They have a sharpish rather guava-like taste, and as with guavas you can eat the whole thing. I was intrigued to read that if you peel them and mash the pulp you can use it as a substitute for mashed banana in baking. I haven't tried this, and I won't until next season as I've either eaten them all or chutnied them. Unless someone gives me some, that is. There were some in the supermarket this week, but the prices are ludicrous. It's only worth it for homesick NZ expats.

When you cut a feijoa across the middle, the pulp inside is white to cream, with a four-quarter pattern of softer gel-like flesh around the seeds in the centre. It also browns with air exposure: the ones in the picture are just starting. If this centre is obviously brown, it is overripe. Bruised pieces will be brown generally, not just at this centre - these can be trimmed and the good bits used.

I managed to salvage 750g of usable fruit from a kilo of feijoas, and I turned it into a dark spicy chutney with some dried fruit, onion and green tomatoes. I got the idea for the recipe from a NZ morning TV show site, but it was one of those annoying ones with weird quantities. What on earth is a packet of currants, or ginger? I decided to just wing it. Chutney is pretty flexible - it's even easier than jam as you have no need to worry about pectin. It's just boiled down to the texture you want, and that's it.

Recipe 1: Curried Cauliflower Soup
1 medium-large cauliflower
1 medium onion
1 stick celery
1 tablespoon schmaltz
375 ml chicken stock
375 ml coconut milk
375 ml milk
2 tsp curry powder
pinch salt

* Chop onion and celery and fry gently for a couple of minutes in the schmaltz.
* Add chopped cauliflower and stir fry for another few minutes, until golden tints occur.
* Add the curry powder and fry another minute, making sure it does not catch.
* Add in all liquids, and bring back to boil.
* Cook until the cauliflower is just soft.
* Puree to your desired consistency, and add salt to taste.

Schmaltz! I love that word. It's yiddish for chicken fat, and I had some from the top of the homemade stock. I actually used the stock to make the risotto, and used a tetrapack for the soup. If you have no schmaltz (or are a vegetarian), some nice fruity olive oil would be good.

I used a stick blender to puree it to a rough porridge texture. You could take it smoother if you like, with a blender. If you like the rougher texture, a potato masher will also work fine.

A's soup has a potato and a bayleaf, too. There's no reason you couldn't use some other vegetables. Parsnip might be good...

Recipe 2: Feijoa and Green Tomato Relish
750g feijoa
530g green tomato
230g onion
200g dates
150g currants
250g crystallised ginger
2 cups malt vinegar
1 kg sugar
2 tblsp treacle
1 stick cinnamon
2 tsp cassia
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garam masala
1 tblsp mustard seed

* Cut the feijoa, onion and green tomato into small dice.
* Chop the dates and ginger into smaller pieces
* Toss in a non-reactive saucepan and add the vinegar and spices.
* Simmer for 20 minutes, or until fruit is softened.
* Add the sugar and treacle, and boil moderately until the mixture is a loose jammy consistency.
* Discard cinnamon stick, and allow to cool slightly.
* Pour while still warm into well-cleaned hot jars.

Notes: The exact amounts are merely what I had once I'd cleaned and chopped the fruit & veg. Roughly similar quantities will be fine - chutney is so flexible. Swap in any dried fruits you prefer, use green apples instead of green tomatoes. Use cider vinegar for a lighter flavour.

I bought some crystallised ginger to do this, as the lot I was given by my Easter houseguests is so good that I am eating it as an after dinner sweet. I whizzed the ginger and dates in the food processor to chop them finely. You can leave the mixture part-cooked during the reducing stage, and heat it up again next day to finish. (Pan must be non-reactive - enamel or stainless steel - or the vinegar will attack it.) Ideally leave it for a week or two before eating, but if you have some nice bread and cheese waiting, well, what can you do?


Cath said...

By the way, if you are very fond of feijoas, I wouldn't recommend the chutney. I suspect the original author has a large, productive tree and was getting heartily sick of them.

It comes out dark, malty, spicy, and a bit hot. Great with cheese or accompanying a curry, but the fruit could have been choko for all that you can taste it.

eatpress said...

Wow feijoas, really make me miss Canberra. I like the sound of them with green tomatoes, but even as strawberry guavas or whatever they call them here in Canada, I have never seen one for sale, too bad.