General recipe development
Avocado – avocado – averywhere an avocado…
Our family grew up with avocados in Southern California; literally, there were small avocado groves scattered all around our neighbourhood. Because of the abundance of avocados grown in California they featured regularly in our diet. We ate avocado in hamburgers, on toast, alongside steak, chicken or fish, with enchiladas, in tacos and every kind of sandwich, but mainly in salads – big bowls of icy, crisp lettuces, salad vegetables, croutons and loads of avocado, finished with a creamy dressing. We missed our avocados when we arrived on these shores in the late 1960’s. Like bananas during 50’s, England was bereft of avocados in the 60’s. If we did find one, it was a precious rarity – made even more strange and uncommon by virtue of being in grown on kibbutz in Israel.
Clearly, the supply chains for avocados have matured and developed to keep pace with the burgeoning demand for the fruit. Not only is the quantity increasing, but also the quality. These days, we can buy ripe, ‘ready to eat’ eat avocados from our local grocery store. Perhaps this single factor has caused the avocado to flourish as our latest food trend. Avocados may be wonderful things; but only during the very short period they are fully ripe. And achieving a ripe avocado can be a bit of a palava. In the early days avocados were bought rock hard, taken home and patiently ripened over a couple of weeks. This ritual was very frustrating and made the advance timing of a dinner-party guacamole almost impossible; even placing a stubbornly unyielding fruit in a bag full of bananas with their fruit-ripening gases was unreliable. Now with a continuous glut of ripened fruit in-store, we can knock-up a ‘guac’ whenever we fancy.
If the supply was sorted, where did the demand come from? Well, from what we read in the media, avocados are a nutrient-rich superfood. Full of antioxidants, vitamin E and B, soluble fibres, carotenes, minerals and essential acids, they can help regulate appetite, lower blood pressure, balance cholesterol, and protect against heart disease. Their one down side is that they are high in fat – but even this is monounsaturated, better than saturated and generally considered a neutral or even beneficial fat… So what’s not to like? Avocados not only score high as a nutritious food they are very pleasant to eat. Mild in flavour with a rich textural taste that is both firm, smooth, velvety and very delicious.
Another benefit of the avocado is its versatility. Although I consider myself an unflinching fan of the avocado, I worry that its versatility is forcing the avocado to become an unnaturally ubiquitous ingredient. I draw a line at avocado purees, avocado whizzed up with creams and soft cheese, soups or any dish that includes hot, grilled or baked avocado (avocados should be eaten at room temperature – possibly a little colder, but never hotter). I’m also perplexed by the current rage of combining soft-boiled eggs and avocado – this feels like one mucilaginous texture too much to me. So don’t mess about with an avocado more than necessary; with the exception of guacamole, an avocado should be served simply accompanying other delicious food.