Ask Peter: Tamarillo chutney
I want to give you a massive high five for the “File it carefully” chutney recipe. I made it to the letter, including the manuka branches, and it is divine. I now want to make some with tamarillos. What are the different spices needed for a tamarillo version? Henry
Tamarillos will work really well cooked in the same recipe, but to understand what flavours will go well with them, you need to consider what traits or characteristics they have compared to feijoas. Feijoas are aromatic, sweet when ripe, quite fruity and grainy in texture. Tamarillos have little aroma, always retain a degree of bitterness even when so ripe that they’re soft; they seem a cross between a fruit and a vegetable, and their texture is that of a firm tomato which is why they used to be called tree tomatoes in New Zealand when I was a child. Interestingly they’re still called that in some parts of their native Andes of South America — tomate de arbol. A year ago I took part in a promotion where the co-ordinator — a fabulous Venezuelan woman — and I had a hilarious conversation about tamarillos, about which she was fascinated. She said she couldn’t wait to try them, so I brought one in and she rolled her eyes, saying it was just a "tree tomato". I wondered why we changed the name, so I’ve just looked up Wikipedia and they tell us “Prior to 1967, the tamarillo was known as the 'tree tomato' in New Zealand, but a new name was chosen by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council in order to distinguish it from the ordinary garden tomato and increase its exotic appeal.” I can’t imagine anyone was silly enough to think one was the other.
When making tamarillo chutney you will need to add more sugar due to the bitterness of the fruit. For the feijoa chutney I had you using 3kg feijoas and 1.2kg red onions to 1.5kg light brown sugar. For tamarillos I’d suggest you use white sugar, or golden caster sugar, to preserve more of the red colour of the fruit. For 3kg tamarillos use 1.5kg red onions and 2.2kg sugar. You’ll need to peel the tamarillos and you do this exactly the same as regular tomatoes. Score an X through the skin, not cutting too deeply into the flesh itself, at the pointy end of the fruit. Keep their stalks on as it helps to hold this when peeling them. Drop 4-6 at a time into a pot of boiling water and leave for 15 seconds (if unripe they’ll need a little more, and if very ripe a little less). Take from the pot and plunge into a bowl of iced water and leave a few minutes. Peel the skin off and cut the stalk off. Cut lengthways then each half lengthways again to give you 4 quarters. Depending upon how chunky you want your chutney, cut again. I think the right size would be to cut each quarter into four. As for spices to add, because the fruit are quite grunty (they’re not at all bashful), they can take whatever you throw at them. If you’re making chutney to serve with cold meats and hard cheese, then a good amount of roughly chopped garlic goes well. Soft cheeses are more delicate so they’d appreciate less garlic. Ginger in abundance is a winner with tamarillos, and adding two split and chopped vanilla beans for the last 30 minutes of baking works well too. They can take a lot of chilli — I’d use red ones for their colour, but you could also add smoked paprika (go easy as the smokiness can overpower), chopped chipotle chillies or even some fiery Thai chillies — just think of what you’ll be serving this with. Cinnamon, green cardamom, fennel and coriander seeds also add to the background. Because of the bitterness, you can add honey or golden syrup in place of the same amount of sugar. As for vinegar, I’d stick to the same quantity (300ml) as the sourness of this helps support the bitterness. Just before the chutney has finished cooking, give it a good stir and take a spoonful out and put on a saucer to cool. Then taste it. The flavours will develop over time, but you’ll have a good sense of the sweetness, sourness and acidity of your chutney and you can make a few last minute tweaks as well as adding salt to taste.