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Avocado on toast (Photo: Nandita Iyer)
Avocado on toast (Photo: Nandita Iyer)

How avocados altered my pandemic mood

From creamy chocolate mousse to toast topping, my farm fresh avocados went beyond the plate

This lockdown period has been weird. The first few days sent us scrambling for basic groceries, especially stuff we had run out of. Then news started coming in about farmers suffering major losses as they were finding it tough to get their harvest to the wholesale markets. Supermarkets were shut and customers were allowed only to their local shops.

Harvesting Farmer Network @HarvestingFN was doing a great job on Twitter (still is), sharing details of farmers wanting to sell their produce and asking people to connect with such farmers in their vicinity. I personally know of many gated communities and large complexes in Bengaluru (including the one I live in) that have been bulk-ordering from these farms and farmers. It saves farmers from losing produce and income and people get access to fresh produce straight from the farms. This is a valuable arrangement.

In all these purchases, we had to buy a certain minimum quantity so that the farmers could sell their perishable produce quickly. After a few such direct-from-farmer supplies, most of us had a surfeit of grapes, mangoes and avocados. I was grappling with 6kg of grapes, 10kg of mangoes and avocados that were all ripening at the same time and approaching dangerous levels of overripeness. Sharing with neighbours was out of the question as everyone had bought the same stuff.

Our residential complex got around 35kg of avocados last week from farms in the Nilgiris via Harvesting Farmer Network. I am told that farmers are also directly bringing avocados in trucks to many apartment complexes in Bengaluru and selling them at 100 per kilogram, the low price indicating the desperation to sell the avocados before they spoil.

It does feel ridiculous to be eating exotic produce when the country is reeling from a pandemic. Even more so when migrant workers, their families and children are traversing the length and breadth of the country on foot to reach the safe place they call home. If something dulls this heartache a little, it is that we are helping farmers, who will otherwise suffer big losses, make some money in these extremely troubled times.

If you have bought a kilogram or so of local avocados, it is very likely that they are stone-hard to start with. Wrap each one in a newspaper and keep it in a basket along with bananas. Ripe bananas release ethylene, which helps avocados ripen quicker. Check on the avocados each day by very gently pressing through the newspaper. Once the fruit feels a little soft and yielding, it is ready for use. Use it straight away or refrigerate it and use it within one or two days.

A perfectly ripe avocado doesn’t need much embellishing—a touch of coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and some extra virgin olive oil is more than enough. Apart from this, my favourite way to eat an avocado is on toast—that is one of the recipes I am sharing with you today. Since it has a mild flavour, avocados on toast can be paired with a variety of ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, sharp-tasting cheese, poached egg, herbs, sautéed mushrooms, wilted spinach and honey. One of the things to remember while making avocado toast is to cut a thick slice of bread that can take the weight of the avocado and other toppings. Alternatively, toast the bread until crisp.

The high-fat percentage, mild flavour and creamy texture also make it perfect for healthy desserts when paired with chocolate. The recipe for avocado chocolate mousse given below also works perfectly as a frosting for cupcakes and cakes. The mousse is ready in just 2 minutes and it satisfies a sweet tooth just as well as any decadent dessert.

If there are too many ripe avocados to deal with, scoop out the flesh and freeze it in resealable bags. Frozen avocados can be added to smoothies, “nice" creams (blended frozen fruit), mousse, cold soups and dips with hung yogurt.

I will leave you with a zero-waste tip for avocados. After scooping out the flesh of avocados, rub the inner part of the peel on your face and neck. Let this stay for 15-20 minutes and then wash for well-moisturized, super-soft skin.

AVOCADO ON TOAST

Makes 4 pieces

Ingredients

4 slices of bread

4 cloves garlic

1 large avocado, ripe ( about 300g flesh)

1 lime, juiced

1/4 tsp salt

A pinch of red chilli flakes

50g paneer (or ricotta if you have it)

To garnish (optional)

Mixed seeds like flax, sesame, chia, pumpkin (lightly toasted)

Any leaves or edible flowers

Method

Toast the bread until crisp. Rub a clove of garlic on each toasted slice for extra flavour.

In a large bowl, scoop out the avocado flesh. Mix in lime juice and chilli flakes. Mash it with a fork until you get a coarse purée. Season with salt and mix well.

Top the toast pieces with enough of the avocado mash to cover the surface. Dot with small spoonfuls of ricotta or crumbled paneer. Sprinkle a few grains of salt over this and garnish with any small salad leaves, petals of edible flowers and toasted seeds. Eat immediately.

Avocado chocolate mousse.
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Avocado chocolate mousse. (Photo: Nandita Iyer)

AVOCADO CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium-sized avocado (about 140g flesh)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp melted chocolate (30g piece)

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp olive oil

2 tbsp sugar

A pinch of salt

Method

Scoop out the avocado flesh. Add the avocado along with all the other ingredients in a food processor and blend until well puréed and combined.

Divide this mousse between two small serving cups. Refrigerate for an hour and serve chilled.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

Twitter - @saffrontrail

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