Ask Peter: Cooking avocados
I have in the past attempted to cook avocados and found the result to be extremely bitter. Is it something to do with the length of cooking time? If I do a quick grill, such as chicken, cheese and avocado on Turkish bread, it tastes fine, but in a smoked salmon and avocado quiche, not good. Can you help? Maggie
To be honest, the only cooked avocado I have ever enjoyed was back in the early 1980s when I ate at a “modern Australian” restaurant in Melbourne whose name escapes me. I was served two halves of the smaller variety finger avocados that had had their flesh scooped out, then mixed with baby shrimps and a pink tabasco sauce-flavoured mayonnaise. They were then topped with parmesan and breadcrumbs and grilled. Writing this, it sounds dreadful, but it was pretty nice — possibly because the avocados were small, so there wasn’t much to eat!
Perhaps, then, it’s apparent that avocados aren’t meant to be cooked. At high school I had a classmate who had lived in Brazil for a period as an exchange student. When she came back she gave a presentation on her time there and I recall her saying, among many exciting memories, that she would often eat as a snack during the day, huge green-fleshed avocados (the size of a junior rugby ball) split in half, topped with brown sugar. I remember thinking then that one day I’d get to eat one of these “exotic dessert fruits” and I relished the thought. I also found it thrilling that they’d eat snacks all day long — it seemed so incredibly exotic and wild.
However, I didn’t get to eat an avocado until a few years later, when my sisters and I got some of the delicious hass variety at the Victoria Market in Melbourne. As we drove down to Gippsland where they lived, we dug into them with corn chips — another thing I had never experienced. I was shocked at first as I thought they’d be sweet, just like in Brazil. My surprise at what I thought
they’d be like, and what they actually were, was quite alarming. Briefly. Of course, had I sprinkled them with sugar they would have been sweet, but that was beside the point.
It must be pointed out that my experience of “foreign” ingredients at this time, when I was 18 (and in 1981), was almost nil. That afternoon we made guacamole and again I was shocked as my sister Donna mixed in chillies, garlic, coriander and lime juice to the mashed avocado flesh.
In 2015 we’re all used to their flavour and texture, but obviously we’re not keen on them being cooked, and perhaps that’s just because they shouldn’t be. If readers of this column have any good ideas, perhaps they could share them on bite.co.nz so we can all see.
Avocado does make a brilliant sorbet though, so chilling obviously works better than heating.
Puree 1 ripe avocado with a ripe mango (I can’t stress how important it is that they are both ripe) and 2 Tbsp grated ginger. Add lime zest and lime juice to taste, then mix in 50ml glucose syrup or use runny honey or golden syrup (all three help prevent ice crystals forming, which causes the sorbet to become icy). Churn the puree in an icecream machine and you’ll love it.
Avocado is also great pureed with chickpeas and chillies to make a “sort of hummus” and it goes really well with corn chips. Puree equal weights of ripe avocado flesh and cooked chickpeas. Mix in 50g tahini per 300g puree and some finely chopped red chillies (including the seeds). Add lime or lemon juice to taste, 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil, shredded coriander and mint, and salt.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.