I walked in to a very swish looking yogurt shop on a scorching Wednesday afternoon, looking for a delectable tub of vanilla topped with some plump strawberries to cool me down. Upon entering, a cheery young man gave me a well rehearsed speech on how marvellous the yogurt was and would I like one topping or two, nuts or fruits, big tub or a little one or how about trying out the stunning new flavour of the month. "Why not. Let's be daring"? I thought. "Here you are", said Mr. A-Bit-too-Cheerful, "Passion Fruit Punch". Passion fruit? Isn't that a tropical fruit that grows only on some idyllic islands in the Pacific? How has it reached the shores of Mumbai? It most certainly has because ever since that day, I have seen it pop its head up in cheesecakes, smoothies, cupcakes and the most divine Margaritas all over town.
Its proper name is Passiflora edulis or purple granadilla and maracuja
It is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina (was wrong about the tropical island part doesn't it have that kind of ring to it?). It is now grown all over the globe because as it's following increases, it is a profitable export earner.
The passion fruit is highly versatile too. It has a sharp tangy taste, which mellows to end with a hint of sweetness. Besides cooking, it is made in to wine in Israel know locally as ‘sicar'. It lends itself nicely to Portuguese liqueurs too. In Brazil, it substitutes the lime in a Caipirinha. You can cook up jams, juice, ice-lollies, yogurts, jellies and the most divine passion fruit butter. Spread it on a chink of crusty bread for a direct ticket to nirvana. If you want to add a Indian touch, cut it up and serve it with chilli power and lime. Much like our old favourite, guava, but so much more posh.
The really good news is that it is fantastically healthy. It is high in beta-carotene and beats eating a carrot stick. It is also high in fibre, vitamin C and great for people with high blood pressure. There is even some research to show a link to controlling asthma symptoms. It contains limonene, a powerhouse of antioxidants.
A refreshing taste with a big helping of healthiness. A rare pairing. Tempted? Take a bite. And you will be hooked on to passion fruit like the proverbial apple.
Some recipes to develop your passion:
PASSION FRUIT CUSTARDS (serves 4)
• 125ml (1/2 cup) milk
• 125ml (1/2 cup) thin cream
• 3 eggs
• 60g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
• 125ml (1/2 cup) fresh passion fruit pulp
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl until well combined. Whisk in the passion fruit pulp. Pour the mixture evenly among four 125ml (1/2-cup) ovenproof dishes.
2. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until just set and light golden on the top.
3. Remove the custards from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly before serving.
PASSIONFRUIT CRUMBLE (serves 4)
• 4 apples, peeled
• Pulp from 3-4 passion fruit
• 1/2 tsp of sugar
• 3-4 Hobnob or digestive biscuits for crumbling
• Butter for greasing
• Vanilla ice-cream for serving
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a baking dish with butter.
2. Quarter and core the peeled apples. Slice the quarters into 1/2"-wide wedges. Place the apple wedges flat in the greased baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with sugar.
3. Spoon passion fruit pulp evenly over apples.
4. Cover baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft.
5. Remove baking dish from oven and spoon apple/passion fruit mixture evenly into four small ramekins. Crumble biscuits on top of fruit and then place back in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until biscuits are golden.
6. Remove ramekins from oven and serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice cream over it.
PASSION FRUIT AND MANGO LASSI (Serves 2)
• 1 ½ cups of mango pulp (frozen will do)
• 1 cup of natural yogurt
• 1 cup of mango juice
• 3/4 cup of milk
• 1/4 cup of passion fruit pulp
• 2 fresh mint leaves
1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse for up to a minute.
2. If you want a thinner consistency, simply add a little more milk. Divide lassi amongst glasses and serve immediately.